My name is Amber Luffman, and my husband, Bradley Luffman, died from his 13th overdose on May 1, 2021. He was just 30 years old. Bradley was a brilliant, handsome fighter.
May 1 was the hardest day of my life, but not the most traumatic. The most traumatic days were spent walking beside him while he was addicted. Though I had never even been friends with a smoker, I married a recovering addict and unknowingly entered a ghastly battlefield I could have never anticipated with him, and my then 2-year-old daughter, Ava.
I knew nothing about the traumatizing effects of addiction then, but I would soon get a crash course in addiction anguish.
Today, I know that 220 people a day die from overdose in America. My husband was 1 of 3,961 men and women to die from a North Carolina drug overdose, just last year. (Source: N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner)
I am now well-versed in the traumatic damage which ensues for all members of a household where the addiction demon has taken up residency. My daughter and I entered regular therapy in 2019 to deal with the effects of PTSD, trauma, anxiety, fear, insecure attachments, heightened nervous system responses and self-esteem struggles — as a result of addiction tearing through my husband in our household.
Bradley entered many treatment programs, but not one ever called to check on me or my child. Desperate, I took to books, online articles and my own Al-Anon meetings to educate myself on addiction. Armed with knowledge about the effects of this illness, I began to fight back.
We dodged grenades of my husband’s sporadic arrests and long-term incarcerations, bullets of domestic violence behind closed doors, and poisonous gases of manipulations, deceits and abandonments — all in the name of the condition I learned to hatefully know as “substance use disorder.”
It’s medically and scientifically recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a disease. It is not always choice or moral failing, despite many people believing so, and often originates as a coping mechanism for young people who have unresolved traumas and griefs, or from addictions to disturbingly high dosages of prescription drugs.
I slowly learned how to “tough love” my addicted spouse for his benefit and for our protection; to fight smart against the demon instead of against the man I loved. I learned to honor the person, not the disease. And I began to truly love my husband but hate the stronghold.
Despite these improvements, I was still so angry at the fact no program called me to check in, thinking, “How can they know what he’s been sick with, and not think to even call me and Ava, to check on how we’re holding up from all the damage?”
Behind closed doors, I battled suicidal thoughts, just wanting the betrayal and dysfunction to stop. Even though I was devastated, I had to locate books for my own issues of co-dependency and love addiction, make friends with and gain mentors with knowledge of addiction, seek out Christian counselors to educate and strengthen me, research local child-play therapists for my child’s recovery, tediously apply for financial help, learn of life skills like “boundaries,” and more — all on my own.
I had to create my own recovery plan, even though Bradley had one all spelled out for him. Not many women and children have access to these tools in their crisis or on their healing journey through the dark wilderness of loving someone addicted.
Thankfully, I did heal, largely before my husband died three years into our marriage ... and a burning desire to change the support and resources readily available for family members loving someone with addiction came alive in me.
As a result, I have founded Established Family Recovery Ministries, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ministry dedicated to combatting addiction in our communities by directly providing support, mentorship and services to the women and children left behind when the man of their house enters residential treatment.
On Sept. 10, 2022, local communities are invited to “The Established 5K Recovery Run and Community Event” at Creekside Park in Archdale, NC. All proceeds will go to directly fund FAMILY Recovery.
Our goal will be to stand in the gap for women and children with a variety of generous services, aiding in their recovery, as their man seeks his own. This ministry will also offer additional grief services to family members who have lost someone in their household to an addiction-related death.
I ask, as a young widow grieving the loss of her beloved husband to overdose, for you to please practice open-mindedness around this topic, extend grace and compassion to anyone struggling, and join forces with us to help combat the effects of addiction in our communities.
Please sign up to participate in the 5K run or donate at: https://runsignup.com/Race/NC/Archdale/Established5K. Make a tax-deductible donation of any amount today by scanning the QR code accompanying this article with your cell phone camera.
Thank you for joining the fight against addiction and for helping fill a ministry gap for family members of those battling addiction. By doing this, you are doing your part to positively change your community.
You can learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.